I had the good fortune last month of attending a business roundtable hosted by the Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment. The event featured Governor Deval L. Patrick and the Ambassador of Kenya to the United States Elkanah Odembo and was part of the Patrick-Murray Administration’s agenda to increase global collaboration and partnerships with Massachusetts.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Odembo commented that Boston was well-known as a world-class place to run marathons. The Ambassador added that as Kenyans knew something about marathons he was in a good position to talk about the subject. Given the Ambassador’s comments and recent coverage of the 116th Boston Marathon, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reinforce the visibility of Boston on the global stage. The awareness of Boston outside the United States was one of the topics of research in “An International Strategy for Massachusetts,” a report that I co-authored at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, an economic development organization focused on driving digital technology innovation for the Commonwealth. The publication focused on the subject of global trade and investment.
The research for “An International Strategy” included conversations with foreign nationals on the visibility of Boston. Over the course of these discussions my co-authors and I found that “Boston” enjoyed far greater name recognition outside of the United States than did “Massachusetts.” This aligned with our expectations that major cities typically enjoy greater prominence than their provinces or states. For example, while you have heard of Mumbai, you may be less familiar with the fact that the city is in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
For Boston, there is an awareness of being more than a major city. Going back to Ambassador Odembo’s observation that Boston is home to one of the premiere marathons in the world (it is one of the World Marathon Majors), the event affords the city global exposure and attracts individuals from around the world. In addition to international coverage, according to the Boston Athletic Association citizens from over 90 countries registered for this year’s marathon.
Of course, the Boston Marathon is not the only athletic event that builds awareness for the city. As examples, the long and oft-storied histories – and recent championships (gratefully) – of the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox also contribute to the city’s visibility. This holds true for institutions outside of the realm of sports. Notably, Boston enjoys awareness outside of the United States due to its leading colleges and universities, research centers, financial institutions, and hospitals, to name a few.
The Boston Marathon affords the city a great opportunity to serve as a showcase for a well-established, internationally renowned event. The marathon also adds to the city’s tradition and awareness as being a well-known sports “town.” In addition, as the city is a leading center of technology innovation with several institutions of prominence, Boston enjoys the benefit of being a major city with a sustained and multi-faceted promotional campaign. This leads to great exposure and to a competitive advantage for Boston and, like the marathon itself, should be appreciated as well as celebrated.
Chuck Anderson is Senior Manager at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and a co-author of “An International Strategy for Massachusetts.” He has also run the Boston Marathon and is a Connector for Boston World Partnerships.
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